Love of music inspires praise radio
by Jim Crosby, Special to the Democrat
When Thomas McCall was in sixth grade, a Christian summer camp counselor shared his music with the youth. The music changed McCall's life.
"At the time I didn't even know contemporary Christian music existed," said McCall, 38, who was born in Defuniak Springs. "I had only heard of hymns we sung in church."
He became such a devotee of the newer praise and worship music that he started his own radio station, Worship and Glory, in January 2011 on the Live 365 Network. The network is an Internet radio and broadcasting service that started in 1999 and now has 7,000 stations streaming all genres of music over the Internet.
McCall, who works in the health-care field, had no radio background or experience. He just had a desire to hear more of the music that inspired him and he could not find it on the air.
"I could get it in bits and pieces, but could only listen for an hour or so before tiring of songs I didn't like and would move on," he said.
When McCall discovered Live 365, he saw that he could play the songs he liked from his vast CD collection. He described the category of music he plays as a sub-genre of praise and worship music that is more modern.
Worship and Glory Radio has 300 songs in rotation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. McCall is amazed that his station is in the top 7 percent of all stations on Live 365 — 512th out of 7,000.
The reach also has exceeded McCall's expectations. In the past month the station had streams (listenership) from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Ireland, Mexico and Turkey.
Listeners also have discovered the station in Africa.
Zoe Beech is a writer and teacher who lives in Durban, South Africa. She found the station on the Live 365 network and listens two or three times a week.
"I think my favorite part about the station is the variety it offers," Beech wrote in an email. "You've got everything from contemporary praise and worship to gospel to some pretty undiscovered, funky worship."
Worship and Glory's varied mix of praise music stems from McCall's choices. He grew up listening to everything from Billy Joel to Hank Williams Jr. with a little Kool Moe Dee thrown in.
Even though there are a wide variety of artists performing on the station, praising God is the central theme. That's what avid listener Mary Mangan likes about it.
"I much prefer music that is God focused," said Mangan who owns Seminole Sitters, a baby-sitting service in Tallahassee that employs more than 30 sitters.
"While I do listen to Christian music that talks about daily living, I find if I focus on my life all day long I become self-centered. If I focus on Jesus I'll become more like him," Mangan explained. Usually she listens to the station several times a week for two or three hours a day.
When a listener goes to the radio website, www.worshipandgloryradio.com, there are a variety of options available ranging from requesting a favorite song to submitting your own personal song to be considered for airplay.
"It's neat to put local acts on the station, people who had their roots here like Peter Penrose," said McCall. Penrose started here, went to Nashville and won a Dove Music Award.
Another local favorite getting airtime on Worship and Glory is Jon Owens, former worship leader at Every Nation Church.
"I love Jon Owens. His 'Arize' album is one of my favorites and I hear him on the station sometimes," said Mangan. "I'm also a big fan of old hymns and love to hear modern worship artists singing those time-tested refrains."
McCall funds the station, spending up to $35 a month to be on the Live 365 network. He is able to sell local advertising and has a package for about $15 a month. McCall gives instructions to a broadcast professional in Rhode Island who produces the commercials.
McCall has no plans to quit his day job and become a full-time radio entrepreneur. He doesn't have to because the station practically runs itself.
"The station is pretty much on auto-pilot," he said. "I simply upload my songs to the Live 365 servers and change the station IDs or ads from time to time."
And of course he pays the monthly bill, which is all that is required because Live 365 pays all the royalties, the license and other necessities. This eliminates the time-consuming functions of the broadcast industry. The rest McCall can do from home or his laptop.
"For me (the radio station) is a ministry and a hobby," McCall said. "Music has always had a strong influence in my life. It's only natural to take that love and use it to influence others for Christ. Worship and Glory radio is my platform for doing exactly that."
That platform now extends 8,000 miles away to Beech.
"The stuff of this station is really heartfelt," she said. "I feel like when I switch it on my heart is automatically connected to God."
— Jim Crosby is the Northwest District Lay Leader of the United Methodist Church and a member of Good Samaritan UMC. He is a sports journalist and the author of three books. His latest is "You Can't Become a Football Overnight.